Bergman, Dingell, Bost, Brownley: Improve Care and Access to New Technologies for Veterans with Spinal Injuries

Reps. Jack Bergman, Debbie Dingell, Julia Brownley, and VA Committee Chairman Mike Bost announced legislation today, the Veterans Spinal Trauma Access to New Devices Act (Veterans STAND Actto improve care for Veterans with spinal cord injuries/disabilities (SCI/D) and expand their access to personal exoskeletons and other assistive devices that promote independence and mobility for those who are clinically eligible.

The bill, which has been endorsed by Paralyzed Veterans of America and Disabled American Veterans, would codify the requirement that VA offers SCI/D Veterans an annual assessment focused on their spinal health. It then takes steps to improve this program by requiring VA to actively conduct outreach to Veterans, as well as including assessments for assistive technology like personal exoskeleton devices as part of the annual evaluation.

The legislation would also direct VA to consult with assistance device experts when developing or changing relevant guidances and require reports to Congress on the extent to which Veterans are being prescribed and are using personal exoskeletons issued by the VA.

Rep. Bergman stated, “I've seen firsthand the promise offered by new technologies like personal exoskeletons for many Veterans with spinal injuries. Unfortunately, current VA practices force Veterans who may be eligible for these devices to fight bureaucracy and redtape every step of the way. I’m grateful for the support of my colleagues in introducing this commonsense bill to ensure that Veterans are given the opportunity to be evaluated for and receive these life-changing technologies.”

Rep. Debbie Dingell said, “Emerging medical technologies have the potential to drastically improve the health and quality of life of veterans with spinal cord injuries or disorders, but we are not doing enough to educate and help veterans access these devices. The Veterans STAND Act will require the VA to provide eligible veterans an annual evaluation, ensuring those who can benefit from personal exoskeletons and other assistive devices are aware of their options and can more easily get the care they deserve.”

“VA has long been a leader in exoskeleton research to provide veterans who do not want to use a wheelchair with the latest and greatest emerging technologies. And veterans who are living with spinal trauma injuries should have access to every tool available to successfully live their life,” said Chairman Bost. “My friend and fellow veteran, General Bergman’s bill, the Veterans STAND Act, is a commonsense solution to expand access to exoskeletons and promote independence and mobility for veterans. I appreciate his leadership on this vitally important issue, and I look forward to considering this bill in our committee soon.”

Rep. Julia Brownley stated, “Advancements in technology can provide life-changing options for paralyzed veterans, and this bill will help to ensure that VA remains at the forefront of innovation and medical treatment. I look forward to continuing to work with General Bergman, Chairman Bost, and Congresswoman Dingell to advance this legislation on behalf of our nation’s veterans."

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